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Mercy, Incognito

On this “Thoughtful Thursday,” I’d like to share a few wise words from Solomon. In the book of 1 Kings 3:16-27, we hear the story of two prostitutes who bring a child to the king for a judgement. We see mercy as the core judgment.

1 Kings 3:16-27

16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”

22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”

But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.

23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”

24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king.25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

Story Highlights

First, the king allowed two prostitutes into his court without judging their sin.

Second, he allowed them to argue their case in front of Him.

Then, he repeated their case to them, and ask for a sword. Next, he gave an order and waited for their replies.

Solomon’s Wisdom

He was granted wisdom from the Lord in previous verses because he had asked for it. God granted him wisdom because he asked for that above all other things. He asked for this so that he could be fair to God’s people. I love that he recognized that these were God’s people, not his subjects solely. His desire was not for personal gain. He didn’t want fame as the most popular king of all time, or riches, or even to live long. His desire was to govern God’s people the way God wanted them governed.

A Mother’s Worst Nightmare

My heart broke for the real mother of the child in question. Here they were in front of the king who determined who lived and who died, and the judgment was death to the innocent. For just a second, she had to wish she’d never brought the matter to his attention. Instead, she was willing to give her child over to a woman who had not only accidentally killed her own son, but stolen a living child from another mother. How selfish! How evil that woman was! Then, her true heart is revealed when she is willing for the child to die, to keep his mother from having him. At this point, I’m imagining the innocent baby lying in a basket before the king. There is sacrifice on the line here. One woman will sacrifice her son. The other will sacrifice a child for the sake of what… Jealousy? Being right? Hatred of the woman with the living child?

Two Prostitutes

Then, I think about the women. Both live in unhappy circumstances. I can’t imagine that either woman planned on growing up to be a prostitute. Then they find themselves pregnant. With a client’s’ baby? Single mother in a culture that stoned women for things for like this. And the second woman, whose son is dead, must have been suffering from postpartum depression! Not an excuse, but definitely a factor in today’s world. It also occurs to me that this is a bastard baby, likely to be scorned for the rest of his life in this culture. So, in that culture, possibly by any other judge, all three could have been put to death.  So why was Solomon able to judge this situation so wisely?

Foreshadowing of Jesus

Could it be a foreshadowing of Jesus’ birth and future sacrifice? Is this an example to us of what real love and sacrifice looks like? Among Solomon’s descendants there would be another mother who would sacrifice her son for the sake of the whole world. He too, would be an innocent “baby”, conceived by the Holy Spirit, with an unwed woman. He too, would be punctured with a sword, but brought to life so that past, present and future offspring could live. He would be a future King.

Mercy, Incognito

All three (women and baby) were God’s people. Solomon must have realized on some level that God loved all of them regardless of their circumstances. He isn’t looking at their sin, only the case before him. Mercy, incognito. Grace, under wraps.

Life’s Application

And finally, the application I gleaned from these verses has to do with the sword. Solomon asked for a sword. A sword to divide the child in half. Thank goodness it didn’t come to that! But, it struck me, metaphorically, that the judge’s first inclination was to reach for a sword. What is the word of God? When we daily put on the armor of God (Eph 6: 16-18) we are to take up the sword of the Spirit. What if all judges used this sword in their cases? What if we used it ourselves in daily life? Could we also give mercy, incognito? Could we offer grace, underwraps? All for the sake of future generations knowing that there is a judge who judges fairly. There is a KING who only wants the very best for HIS kingdom. There is a KING who sacrifices for the love of mankind.

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